Today I saw a derelict man wearing an oversized wedding dress and a wig tramp along Druitt Street, trailed by his equally derelict friends and an enormous blow-up doll he gripped in his hand. Then they went to the pub. All afternoon the plastic helpmate hung out from the third-storey window, titillating the passers-by. I wish I’d taken a picture of this scene, but memory will have to do.
Practical suggestions for writing in an age of distraction:
- Short, regular work schedule
When I’m working on a story or novel, I set a modest daily goal — usually a page or two — and then I meet it every day, doing nothing else while I’m working on it… There’s always 20 minutes to be found in a day… The secret is to do it every day, weekends included, to keep the momentum going, and to allow your thoughts to wander to your next day’s page between sessions. Try to find one or two vivid sensory details to work into the next page, or a bon mot, so that you’ve already got some material when you sit down at the keyboard.
- Leave yourself a rough edge
When you hit your daily word-goal, stop. Stop even if you’re in the middle of a sentence. Especially if you’re in the middle of a sentence. That way, when you sit down at the keyboard the next day, your first five or ten words are already ordained, so that you get a little push before you begin your work… Potters leave a rough edge on the wet clay before they wrap it in plastic for the night — it’s hard to build on a smooth edge.
- Don’t research
When you come to a factual matter that you could google in a matter of seconds, don’t… That way lies distraction — an endless click-trance that will turn your 20 minutes of composing into a half-day’s idyll through the web. Instead, type “TK” where your fact should go… “TK” appears in very few English words (the one I get tripped up on is “Atkins”) so a quick search through your document for “TK” will tell you whether you have any fact-checking to do afterwards.
- Don’t be ceremonious
Forget advice about finding the right atmosphere to coax your muse into the room. Forget candles, music, silence, a good chair, a cigarette, or putting the kids to sleep… When the time is available, just put fingers to keyboard and write. You can put up with noise/silence/kids/discomfort/hunger for 20 minutes.
Tumbl’d by everyone else weeks ago but newly meaningful to me.
Sometimes the only cure for discontent is to take a daytrip and explore the untidy side of town. Strengthen your ties with local business owners! They’ll offer you zatar pizza for $1.50 and tell you which brands of dolmades to buy. Cheap meals afford an acceptable amount of smug satisfaction, especially when it’s as large and round as a bicycle wheel. I should know, I measured it against the one a nearby man held while waiting for a train to arrive. He smirked at the zatar smears on my knees, or maybe because I fed the birds (sparrows hammering at crusts: worth the dollar fifty). Whatever mister, you can’t talk, what good is that helmet and wheel to you when you have to catch public transport like the rest of us.
Unrihtwillnung: improper love (Old English)
Istamaasdu: Listen, you in the plural! (Hittite, Turkey)
Ebauthoo: water (Beothuk, Newfoundland)
Kälymentwam: path to heaven (Tocharian, central Asia)
Moíthgnatha: famously smooth (Old Irish)
Tehonannonronkwanniontak: they greeted him with respect; literally, they greased his scalp many times (Huron, Ontario)
Molatuendalaas: God’s curse in your stomach (Cornish)
Tpochgo: night (Mohican, New York and New England)
Ngangki: sun (Yaralde, South Australia)
Mun*s: mouth - the fourth letter, here substituted with an asterisk, is the Runic thorn (Gothic, eastern Europe)
Xuqu’liilx’aax’ch’kk’sh: Are you going to keep tickling me in the face in the same spot repeatedly? (Eyak, Alaska)
In between making ‘your mum’/’your mum’s face’ jokes and smearing chocolate all over people to make tribal markings and wearing lens-free glasses while watching Dr Strangelove, I decided this year’s goal is to write a really shitty book of wank so that next year’s one will be exponentially better. This is what Australia Day should be about! That and talking to the Aboriginal community in Redfern, none of this flag-toting tart business.
Nightlife in Sydney, however, means: melting streets, beery shoes, girls wearing flags and flaking temporary tattoos and not much else, Estelle remixes, mojitos and popped collars (still). Welcome to Australia Day long weekend, where bogans roam the streets with twelve-packs hoisted on their shoulders, and green-and-gold clothing is mandatory attire.
- Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
- Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
- Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
- Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.
- Start as close to the end as possible.
- Be a sadist. Now matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
- Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
- Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
I would have liked to make some astute comments on orthodontics and social norms, and how training your teeth into proper alignment is an analogy for the self-imposed restrictions most of us adopt once we pass through the dizzy throes of puberty, except right now my back molar is an explosion of pain and fuck you Dr Chan, you never said shifting teeth would hurt five years after the fact. I’m going out to go get an eclair or an ice cream or maybe a chainsaw. OW.
it’s really disorienting when you spend most of the night inhaling caffeinated beverages in order to watch a black guy in a black suit talk about changing the world and then you pass out and wake up and suddenly there’s a black guy in an orange suit singing about parties in tummies and then you think, oh, yo gabba gabba’s playing, sweet and pass out again.
I can stay up for another 3 and a half hours, right?
Bright lights: check
Loud music: check
Three alarm clocks: once I find the spare batteries, check
9am start to my internship, forget you
When I’ve politely turned down proposals for romantic relationships from well-meaning young men in the past, they were also very likely to halt the subscription to the friendship that they had spent the past few months carefully cultivating with me. This is frustrating and asinine at minimum, and incredibly unsettling and upsetting at most. This is why my mother yelled “STOP TURNING DOWN BOYS” to me the other day.
My mother thinks I need a boyfriend because I need to learn “how to share”; she also used the words “scared” and “selfish” to describe my attitude when it comes to interpersonal relationships. I don’t understand this for two reasons: one, I’m certain I give 100% of my efforts to contribute where I can when my fellow man needs me, and two, it isn’t as if I’ve anything particularly significant to share. If I were to share anything, it’s probably going to involve random trivia about military history or indie rock, but this is a given (I pride myself in being an equal-opportunity trivia distributor).
I want to disagree with her on multiple counts of fallacy, but that woman listens to Vampire Weekend. Vampire Weekend! That makes her cooler than me because kids my age are expected to listen to Vampire Weekend! Does your mother randomly sing out Blake’s got a new face when doing the dishes?
This girl has an amazing writing voice.